By on August 26, 2014

2015 Toyota Mirai

For all of the incentives thrown in front of the upcoming Toyota Mirai, the automaker believes fueling the FCV will remain an expensive proposition in the near-term. That is, unless new hydrogen production technologies do for fuel cells what petroleum technology did the for the ICE.

CleanTechnica reports a full tank of hydrogen for the Mirai would cost $50, according to Toyota North America senior vice president Bob Caster, who took his information from the U.S. Department of Energy. Caster added that the price could come down to as low as $30 per tank, a goal the DOE aims to deliver as soon as possible with an R&D investment of $20 million.

In the meantime, researchers in Japan, and at MIT and the Australian National University Research School of Biology are developing hydrogen processing techniques involving photosynthesis in so-called artificial leaves. MIT’s approach uses solar energy in a photoelectrochemical process to extract hydrogen, while the Australians swap iron with manganese in a naturally occurring protein named ferritin along with light-sensitive zinc chlorin to do the same. Japan, on the other hand, uses cyanobacteria.

All artificial-leaf projects are currently focused on providing cheap energy in developing countries, but do have the potential to scale to meet the needs of a burgeoning hydrogen industry.

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20 Comments on “Artificial Leaves Key To Lowering Hydrogen Fuel Production Costs...”

  • avatar

    But who will rake the artificial leaves?

    How much louder will the artificial Leaf blowers be?

    • 0 avatar

      They’ll just set up recruitment centers for unemployed guys over 60 like TEPCO did for the Fukushima cleanup and hand them artificial rakes. They’ll get so many takers that leafblowers won’t be needed. No bennies, least of all healthcare.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    The $50 dollar fill is a completely useless number until you understand how far the FCV will travel.

    • 0 avatar

      What do you mean? Fuel economy isn’t measured in cost per tank?


    • 0 avatar

      I’ve heard as high as 460 miles using that completely unrealistic Japanese standard that also rated the Nissan Leaf at 100 miles range. It’s probably in the low 300 mile range in town, and somewhat less on the highway.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s at least in the ballpark of an ICE. The issue is of course that I can have 1000 bucks in my wallet to fill up and it wont matter since there is no place to actually perform said fill up.

    • 0 avatar

      Two articles deep it gives a fairly good explanation:

      By comparison, nationwide fuel economy figures indicate that the average driver pays $44.50 to travel 300 miles while owners of the Toyota Prius, with its EPA rating of 50 mpg, pay just $21.

      So the tank is assumed to be 300 miles give or take and of course your mileage will vary. For 300 miles I pay about 36.74 here, but that’s here. $50 isn’t outrageous but with better infrastructure cost down to $30 would be amazing.

  • avatar

    What’s with the absurdly huge fake front brake cooling scoops they’re using for styling on the front end of this car ?. It looks like they took an old Porsche 935 rear fender and mounted it backwards onto the front of this Toyota.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Why mess with future artificial leaves when you can get a real Leaf today?

    • 0 avatar

      Then there are the real leaves they’ve been smoking if they think this technology is going anywhere.

      • 0 avatar

        If everyone had that attitude, we would all be driving shiny new 1977 Lada Nivas. I mean, what more could you want?

        • 0 avatar

          >> If everyone had that attitude, we would all be driving shiny new 1977 Lada Nivas.

          So how many moms are going to be comfortable strapping their baby into a car seat sitting on top of a 10,000 psi tank of hydrogen? Oh yeah, perfectly safe – but are they going to do it? 10,000 psi. Ever had a 120 psi bike tire explode on you – now think baby on top of a 10,000 psi tank. The public is just gonna love these things.

          I realize the auto industry has had a stellar quality record and has never had to recall a vehicle for a defect so I’m sure these 10,000 psi tanks will be perfectly safe – after all, this is the auto industry. They’ll be perfect.

      • 0 avatar

        I heard one of the top Toyota engineers is scheduled to give a talk at the SAE conference about the next new alternative fuel Toyota is working on. His research paper is titled “Beans, beans, the musical fruit…”.

  • avatar

    I have said many times that I believe the next revolution in technology is in biological machines. We already do this to an extent with specifically bred bacteria, algae, etc. We already use modified viruses in chemical manufacturing. The next step is in more genetic engineering of these machines, as well as extracting the sub-cell functions from the living organism and operating them on their own. I fully expect to see both electricity & chemical production plants based on chlorophyll/photosynthesis such as proposed with these artificial leaves.

    The big question, however, is when will such a revolution take place? If history is a guide, it will be sooner than expected.

    • 0 avatar

      Bio-tech? I would say 10-15 years max. We’re already in the mini-scale process with a few dozen different projects in this line of work. Once they’re to the mini-scale industrial setting it’s maybe 10 years before we’ll see full-scale industrial projects get off the ground. The problem right now in the energy sector is that 7 of the largest companies on earth and their thousands of subsidiaries and related industries are holding back the technology by both force and market domination. Automobiles are a small part of the game that is afoot right now, but if hydrogen became economical they would have a limited shelf-life as the value of their resource plummeted.

  • avatar

    I still don’t understand how any of this is supposed to work at global scale. And neither does anyone I have spoken to; some of whom who should be as well placed as anyone to know.

    But unless the apparent conviction with which both Toyota and Honda are getting behind it is just window dressing to please some run amuck bureaucrat in Tokyo for awhile, there’s got to be more to it than I currently grasp.

    The only speculation that makes halfway sense to me, is that battery research, even really far out costs be damned speculative stuff, have been tested more thoroughly by Japanese suppliers and found wanting, than what is currently publicly accepted wisdom. Making Hydrogen refueling seem less comparatively daunting. Which still ends up sounding more like a buy recommendation for Big Oil than for any H2 play….

  • avatar

    The next big thing they’re working on in alternative fueled cars is carbide powered ones. You’ll have two fuel tanks onboard, one for the carbide powder, and one for the water. As a side benefit it’ll also power the lights, and you can get your car to backfire during 4th of July parades.

  • avatar

    It’s completely unclear to me, from this article, what the leaves, ferritin or cyanobacteria are up to.

    Do they process natural gas? Do they grab hydrogen from air?

    The article could be nattering on about gold nodules from Uranus.

    Context. Can the author provide – context. As in, what’s going on …

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